When you think of health and wellness, skin checks may not be the first thing that come to mind. In reality, regular skin checks are just as important to your health as working out and eating right. Most skin cancers are curable if caught early, and most cancer spots are first detected at home by yourself rather than by a doctor. If you do not currently include skin checks as part of your normal health and wellness routine, you can start now with three simple practices:
Perform monthly self-examinations of your skin. Stand in front of a full length mirror and check for any moles, growths, or lesions on your skin. Note their size and location, and check back each month to ensure they haven’t grown or changed shape. Consider using a body map or taking photos of anything suspicious to use as a point of comparison. Don’t forget your scalp, feet, and nails. Ask a partner to help check your back, the most common place for melanoma. If you notice any changes, make an appointment with your dermatologist for a professional evaluation.
Know what to look for. The skin cancer foundation provides a handy memory tool for the warning signs of melanoma: ABCDE.
- Asymmetrical moles are more likely to be cancerous than symmetrical ones.
- Borders of melanoma spots tend to be patchy and uneven, similar to an ink blot. Benign moles are more even and round.
- Colorful moles (i.e., a single mole that is more than one color) are indicative of cancer.
- Diameter is also a sign; the larger the spot’s diameter, the more likely it is to be cancerous.
- Evolving moles are a cause for concern. Moles that stay the same over time are usually harmless.
Schedule annual skin exams with your dermatologist. The next time you call your primary care physician for an annual physical, call your dermatologist that same day to schedule your annual skin exam. Make sure you remove any nail polish and wear hair loose to allow full access to your scalp. While you are there, ask your dermatologist for tips on self-checks to help keep an eye on any potential trouble areas.
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